It’s 9:30 Thursday night here in the Hague, and as I sit here in my apartment, the sounds of people celebrating today’s truly fine weather waft through my open window along with the breeze. Across the way, I can see a group of people gathered on a roof, grilling, drinking, and generally enjoying each other’s company. Patrons of the bar on the corner have taken their beers outside into the 80-degree air, and undoubtedly, the children responsible for the 130-square game of Hopscotch I saw on the sidewalk yesterday are just going to bed after an exhausting round of outdoor activities in one of the Hague’s many parks.
This has been a good week. I’ve been to the beach every day, starting on Sunday with my afternoon spent next to a fire pit on the boardwalk and continuing with morning and/or evening walks along different parts of the waterfront with Kelsey. Last night we packed some vegetables, cheese, and beer and set off on a trek through the harbor (which is very, very cute) to the other end of the commercial beach, where we encountered a surfing club of some sort that had, strangely, some exercise machines that appeared to be open to public use – right there on the boardwalk! We walked inside and talked to a female bartender, who informed us that they were there to encourage everyone to be active and take care of themselves. (Then, in what I’m coming to understand is the true, friendly fashion of the Dutch, she told us to feel free to make ourselves at home; “you’re family.”) A bit further down the beach a big group of people around our age were playing on several beach volleyball courts, and about 15 people were surfing at the far end next to the jetty. (I didn’t see anyone actually stand up on a wave – they’re pretty small, and the water was particularly calm yesterday.) We walked all the way down to the other end where the pier is (and where we’d spent Sunday afternoon). Once we reached the pier (which, we discovered, is home to a casino perched over the water), we plopped down on the sand, cracked open a beer, and sat there savoring the simple joy of sitting on sand, facing the ocean, watching the sun slowly start to sink down towards the water. As we looked around, we wondered two things: if the residents of the Hague always spend time at the beach, and if they realize how good they’ve got it. We get the sense that they truly value the beach – it’s clearly a place for everyone. Kids are running around or building sandcastles; young lovers are holding hands and kissing; older couples stroll together along the surf. We’ve even seen people in wheelchairs on the boardwalk.
This morning we decided to walk out onto the jetty, which is long enough that it’s about a five-minute walk from one end to the other. At the far end, we found a few men in their 60’s fishing. They didn’t speak English, but they seemed pleasantly amused at our presence and seemed to have no problem with us watching them. One guy even managed to snag a flounder while we were there! I’ve decided that at some point we’re going to bring croissants with us and try to make friends with these guys. (I will study up on some key Dutch phrases beforehand.) We figure that they probably have a) wives who’d be willing to make us a real Dutch meal and/or b) tall, attractive sons around our age. Either way, it’s a win.